The Gangs of Manchester tells the story of the scuttlers, gangs of youths who terrorised the world’s first industrial conurbation in the late 19th century. Published in 2008 by Milo Books, it is written by historian Dr Andrew Davies.
This website offers excerpts from the book, info on where to buy, extras, such as profiles of leading scuttlers, and information on the book, the author and the exciting developments arising from the book’s publication: press coverage, author appearances – and not least, a play being produced by the MaD Theatre Company!
RESEARCHING THE GANGS OF MANCHESTER
The book is a labour of love. It took seventeen years (on and off) to research and write. Most of the time was spent scouring back issues of the Manchester and Salford newspapers – these are held on microfilm in Manchester Central Library and Salford Local History Library. Thousands of reports on outbreaks of scuttling were copied, and sifted. Patterns in the reports slowly became apparent, and these form the basis of the chapters in the book.
Additional material came from “depositions” – sworn witness statements, taken in preparation for the trials of scuttlers at the Quarter Sessions and the Assizes (the equivalent of the Crown Court today). These are rare: only a handful survive, but they provide intricate layers of incidental detail which can be added to information gleaned from press reports. Further evidence came from Salford Magistrates’ Court. The day registers of the court record every case tried by Salford magistrates in the late 19th century. A two year sample of these records from 1889-90 was entered into a database by Dr Claire Langhamer (now of the University of Sussex).
Not surprisingly, the database is full of scuttlers – but many of them were prosecuted for trifling offences such as gambling at pitch and toss, or even bathing in the Bolton & Bury Canal! These records help to build up a picture of young people’s lives in the late nineteenth century beyond their involvement in gang violence.